Category Archives: Information

FTC Voted to Ramp Up Enforcement Against Illegal Repair Restrictions

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) unanimously voted to ramp up law enforcement against repair restrictions that prevent small businesses, workers, consumers, and even government entities from fixing their own products. This decision essentially puts the “right to repair” in place.

The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the policy statement during an open Commission meeting that was live streamed to its website.

“These types of restrictions can significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunity for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resiliency,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said during an open Commission meeting. “The FTC has a range of tools it can use to root out unlawful repair restrictions, and today’s policy statement would commit us to move forward on this issue with new vigor.”

In a policy statement, the Commission said it would target repair restrictions that violate antitrust laws enforced by the FTC or the FTC Act’s prohibitions on unfair or deceptive acts or practices. The FTC also urged the public to submit complaints of violations of the Magunson-Moss Warranty Act, which prohibits, among other things, tying a consumer’s product warranty to the use of a special service provider or product, unless the FTC has issued a waiver.

The FTC’s statements come days after the White House endorsed similar rules in an executive order on economic competition. That part of the executive order specifically states that the FTC will exercise rulemaking authority regarding several areas, including “unfair anticompetition and surveillance practices on third-party repair or self-repair of items, as imposed by powerful manufacturers that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment.”

That part refers to farmers who use John Deere tractors, and who have sued for the right to repair their own tractors. Currently, some farmers face legal repercussions when they try to fix their machinery themselves.

The FTC could choose to use its new policy to prevent companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google from working to put a stop to laws that would require them to provide genuine repair parts and device schematics to independent repair shops.

The New Emoji 14.0 Mockups Are Viewable

Emojipedia posted original sample images visualizing how new emojis might look when they come to fruition. The mockups might, or might not, resemble the final versions from each platform vendor. The final list of 2021 – 2022 Emoji will be approved in September 2021. Here are a few new Emoji that I found interesting:

Pregnant Man and Pregnant Person are new emoji. These emoji recognize that pregnancy is possible for transgender men and non-binary people. These two new emojis are in addition to the existing Pregnant Woman emoji. All of the pregnant emojis come in a variety of skin tones.

Person with Crown shows a close up of a person who is wearing a crown and smiling. It comes in a variety of skin tones. Emojipedia explains that Person with Crown is a gender-inclusive alternative to the existing emojis for Princess and Prince.

Melting Face is a yellow smiley face melting into a puddle. Emojipedia describes Melting Face this way: “The eyes and mouth slip down the face, yet still maintain a distorted smile. This quality lends this emoji to sarcasm. It can also be used to talk about extreme heat. Can be used metaphorically to talk about embarrassment, shame, or a slowly sinking sense of dread.”

Face with Open Eyes and Hand Over Mouth is described as “An emoji with open (non-smiling) eyes and a hand over the mouth conveying a gasp, shock or surprise. Appearance is similar to Yawning Face though no mouth is visible.

Emojipedia explains: “A disambiguation of Face with Hand Over Mouth which appears to have smiling eyes on some platforms, and open / non-smiling eyes on others, creating confusion.” For example, Face with Hand Over Mouth shows non-smiling eyes when used on Twitter app and iOS. The same Emoji appears with laughing eyes when used on the Twitter website.

The purpose of creating the Face With Hand Over Mouth that is non-smiling appears to be intended to reduce the confusion as the previous version of the emoji changed how it looked on certain devices – conveying an entirely different message than the person intended.

The Coral emoji looks like an orange piece of coral with some blue bubbles around it. According to Emojipedia, the coral emoji is sometimes used as a symbol of climate change due to coral bleaching.

You can view the whole collection of the new 2021-2022 emoji on Emojipedia.

TikTok Technology will Automate Removal of Videos

TikTok posted information titled: “Advancing our approach to user safety”. The post informs users that TikTok will begin introducing technology to automatically remove content that violates their Community Standards. As of today, TikTok will bring these systems to the US and Canada as the company works to advance the safety of their community.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll begin using technology to automatically remove some types of violative content identified upon upload, and in addition to removals confirmed by our Safety Team. Automation will be reserved for categories where our technology has the highest degree of accuracy, starting with violations of our policies on minor safety, adult nudity and sexual activities, violent and graphic content, and illegal activities and regulated goods.

One of the reasons TikTok is choosing to use automated technologies on uploaded content – before it goes live – is to spare their moderators from having to view it. I think we can all understand why having to view the worst things on the internet – as requirement of a person’s job – would cause harm to those who cannot opt-out of seeing it.

TikTok also clarified how users will be notified of Community Guidelines violations. The new system counts the violations accrued by a user and is based on the severity and frequency of the violations. People will be notified of the consequence(s) of their violation(s), starting in the Account Updates section of their Inbox. A record of their accrued violations will be shown there.

First violation: TikTok sends a warning in the app, unless the violation is a zero-tolerance policy, which will result in an automatic ban.

After the first violation:

Suspend an account’s ability to upload a video, comment or edit their profile for 24 or 48 hours, depending on the severity of the violation and previous violations.

Or, restrict an account to a view-only experience for 72 hours or up to one week, meaning the account can’t post or engage with content.

Or, after several violations, a user will be notified that their account is on the verge of being banned. If the behavior persists, the account will be permanently removed.

TikTok may also block a device to prevent future accounts from being created.

Data Centers are Using Too Much Water During Droughts

Huge data centers are using a lot of water to keep warehouses filled with computers cool. This isn’t good for the climate – especially during droughts.

NBC News reported that on May 17, the City Council of Mesa, Arizona, approved the $800 million development of an enormous data center on an arid plot of land in the eastern part of the city.

That data center requires up to 1.25 million gallons of water each day. Mesa is currently experiencing a drought. Data centers like the one in Mesa create relatively few jobs, according to NBC News.

The U.S. also has at least 1,800 “colocation” data centers, warehouses filled with a variety of smaller companies’ server hardware that share the same cooling system, electricity, and security, according to Data Center Map. They are typically smaller than hyper scale data centers but, research has shown, more resource intensive as they maintain a variety of computer systems operating at different levels of efficiency.

The data that NBC News pointed at comes from an environmental research letter posted on IOP Science. The letter is titled: “The environmental footprint of data centers in the United States.” It was published in May of 2021. From the abstract of the letter:

…Our bottom-up approach reveals one-fifth of data center servers direct water footprint comes from moderately to highly stressed watersheds, while nearly half of servers are fully or partially powered by power plants located within water stressed regions. Approximately 0.5% of total US greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to data centers…

The letter offers some suggestions for more environmentally friendly ways data centers can keep cool. Data centers can be located in areas that typically have lower temperatures that would make them easier to cool. Data centers can invest in solar and wind energy (and use that as a coolant instead of water).

PayPal is Raising Merchant Fees on Some Transactions

PayPal posted an article titled: “Upcoming Changes for Some US Businesses”. The new rates will apply to a portion of their merchant customers in the U.S. beginning on August 2, 2021.

Here is what is changing:

PayPal Digital Payments: For PayPal products, (such as PayPal Checkout, Pay with Venmo, Pay in 4, PayPal with Rewards, Checkout, and crypto), which include Seller Protection on eligible transactions, the new rate for online transactions will be 3.49% + 0.49 per transaction.

In-person Payments: For PayPal and Venmo QR code transactions over $10, the new rate will be 1.90% + $0.10. For transactions that are $10 and under, the rate will be 2.40% + $0.05. For certain in-person debit and credit transactions the rate will be 2.29% + $0.09.

Credit and Debit Card payments: Online credit and debit card transactions will be 2.59% + $0.49 per transaction without Chargeback Protection, or 2.99% + $0.49 with Chargeback Protection.

Charity Transactions: Fees for charity transactions will be 1.99% + $0.49 for confirmed charities (subject to application and pre-approval).

Non-standard Pricing: For U.S. merchants who have custom, non-standard pricing, rates will remain unchanged for those services as agreed.

The Verge reported that in the past, PayPal has had a flat rate for sellers processing payments, charging 2.9 percent of a transaction price, plus a 30-cent fee. The new higher rates will apply to the company’s newer products like PayPal Checkout, and Pay with Venmo.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to PayPal.

Ko-fi does not take any fees. (They make their money from Ko-fi Gold subscriptions and donations to their own Ko-fi page.) If you have a Ko-fi account, and connected it to your PayPal account as a payment processor, PayPal will still take its transaction fees.

Stripe charges fees that are lower than PayPal’s. Cards and Wallets: 2.9% + 30 cents; Bank debits and transfers: 0.8% – $5.00 cap; Additional payment methods: starting at 80 cents. Stripe offers invoicing at 0.4% per paid invoice with the first 25 invoices free per month.

Ukraine picks up six hackers behind Clop ransomware

It’s been a rough spell for hackers, one was just extradited from Mexico to face charges in California for a DDoS attack on the city of Santa Cruz. 

Now six members of a group responsible for the Clop ransomware were picked up in a raid in the Ukraine. It is not clear if these were all the members behind it or just one cell. The search of the home resulted in the seizure of hundreds of thousands of dollars and expensive vehicles such as an AMG 63 and a Tesla. 

A Ukrainian report states that “[in] 2021, the defendants attacked and encrypted the personal data of employees and financial reports of Stanford University Medical School, the University of Maryland and the University of California.” 

As S Korea and the US were also in on this roundup and have charges pending for hacks in both countries, it’s unclear where things go from here. 

Chrome OS makes first-ever change in its schedule

Google’s Chrome OS has been around over a decade, The operating system was announced in 2009 and a laptop appeared in 2011. However, popularity really began in 2013 when Google released their “own” model, the HP Chromebook 11 G1. 

Schools began adopting and that’s when people saw the usefulness and it started to spread among the general public. 

Since those early days one thing has remained constant – the release schedule. You’ve been able to count on the every six weeks like clockwork. The new timeframe announced has shrunk the wait time to every four weeks. 

The move does come with a bit of confusion – you’ll be missing a version of the OS. According to the Chromium Blog Post, the Chrome OS release schedule will shift to a 4-week rollout beginning in Q3 with version 94 of the operating system. 

The company states To bridge the gap between M94 when Chrome moves to a four week release and M96, Chrome OS will skip M95 (see the updated Chrome schedule page for milestone-specific details) 

Most people likely pay little attention to the update or it release date and number. It simply updates when it reboots and there’s no announcement.